Few of us will admit that a lot of what happens in other people’s lives is absolutely none our business. Nothing could be truer than the recent events that have transpired involving two National Football League players Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.
Both men have had aspects of their family lives exposed to the general public, which have resulted in overblown censure from media discourse and public input. Rather than sparking meaningful conversation, too many cooks in the kitchen have instead made matters increasingly worse for the men and their families.
In the case of Ray Rice, the world was privy to see the visual images of a fight between a young couple in an elevator.
The man (Ray Rice) spat on and hit the woman (Janay Rice), who then stumbled and hits her head on a metal rail in the elevator and was knocked unconscious. It is Janay’s limp body that Ray Rice drags out of the elevator.
This scene was the subject of many watercooler conversations, the majority of which bashed Ray Rice as the villain and Janay Rice as the symbolic victim, representative of all women—whether unknown, nameless, or unsuspecting—who had at one point bore, are currently enduring, or might one day suffer abuse at the hands of a man.
In Adrian Peterson’s case, whether his actions should even warrant the label of abuse is a matter of dispute. Peterson was brought under question after his child’s mother reported to county officials that he had beaten his son. When photos of his bruised son were leaked to the media, Peterson was asked to defend his treatment of his child and brought under charges of child abuse.
However, had his son been in grave danger, it is likely his mother would have consulted a medical doctor rather than an attorney. The motives of contacting legal rather than medical advice in this case are questionable.
Although it’s challenging to discuss these incidents in the same vein, they do have commonalities in that both are private events between family members that have been thrust into public discourse.
Ray Rice’s predicament is undoubtedly objectionable. Even if a woman is aggressive towards a man, few advocate a man’s behavior to be aggressive in return. Doing so violates an unspoken moral code that structures many societies’ ideal gender relations.
But here, the vital piece of information is not, or at least should not be, the video and the public’s reaction. The only voice that should matter is that of the victim, Janay Rice.
The fact that is often left out in discussion is that Janay, who now married to Ray Rice, refused to press charges against her husband. As his wife, she is not obligated to testify against her husband. Like it or not, this quarrel that erupted between a couple has been settled in their private home. It was a case that could have been conceived, but in actuality never materialized. Without the charges from the victim, the case doesn’t exist.
However, members of the court of public opinion, including the throngs of voyeurs who have watched the silent video, likely repeatedly, want to see Ray Rice punished. Rather than empowering the victim, Janay Rice, who has emphatically voiced her desire to move on with her family intact and her life out of public scrutiny, the mass media witch-hunt has called for Ray Rice’s head on a platter.
Adrian Peterson’s dilemma invokes the question of how to raise children. This debate is important and should take place between family members or even amongst members of community, but it is inappropriate for people outside of these units to be engaged in such a conversation.
How individuals choose to raise their children is not a conversation that should stretch across an entire nation, especially one that cannot agree on more pressing issues of energy conservation, gun control, and mass incarceration.
Why should a discussion about how a father raises his children take precedence in the media over these subjects and over whether a nation is to engage in war? Certainly the attack on black men that is rampant in the media wrongfully overshadows real discourses of national interest.
The NFL initially gave Ray Rice a two-game suspension. When the full video was released, the league suspended him indefinitely. Adrian Peterson has similarly been taken out of play while his case is underway.
Removing these men from their professional duties, not because of their on-field actions, but because of public opinion of family business is ludicrous. What people think about Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson involves questions of morality and ethics or even racial bias, but these men are not perpetrators.
It goes without saying: Ray Rice Is Not A Criminal.
He is a person who made a mistake, like we all do. And during his lifetime, it is certain that he has made and will make more mistakes. It just so happens that this one despicable mistake was caught on camera, and right now he is paying dearly for it. Does that mean he should be barred from his professional career, that even after repenting for his sins, he should never be forgiven?
A similar plea must be spoken for Adrian Peterson: Adrian Peterson Is No Child Abuser.
Disciplining children is a must. In many parts of the world, this is accomplished through physical force, whether a switch, a belt, or other instrument. The child learns to think carefully and weigh some matters with seriousness; he understands that his actions have consequences and are punishable.
Oftentimes, stern parents are thanked in acceptance speeches when adult children recall how they would never have reached the apex of their accomplishments had it not been for the parent who cared enough to steer them off a derailing track. But Peterson is condemned for being a father to his son in the way that his father nurtured him.
It is quite hypocritical that the American public dismisses Adrian Peterson’s parenting of his own children, while the United States federal and state governments slap a violent hand that is far worse to millions of young black men.
We have witnessed police beat, strangle, and murder black men, using whatever force the state deems is necessary to teach them a lesson.
We have heard conservatives rant about the irresponsibility of black men who shirk their responsibilities to rear their children. Coming down on Adrian Peterson for doing the opposite sends a convoluted message to black fathers and to families whose notions of parenting are rooted in tradition and not political correctness.
Both Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson are victims of mob mentality forged by people who sit on their high horses of judgment and proclaim that someone’s life should be over because of a singular incident.
Both Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, in not being allowed to play in the NFL, even if only temporary, are deprived the inalienable right to provide for themselves and their families.
Playing football is their avenue to gainful employment. If an attorney is not permitted to practice law or a doctor is banned from practicing medicine, what other options do they have to provide a living wage to support their families? Unfortunately, rash decisions made based on emotional surges from public discourse fail to take these individuals’ livelihoods and the well-being of their families into consideration.
Is Janay Rice, who is branded as the victim in the elevator fight, helped by her husband being put out of his job? Does Adrian Peterson’s son benefit when his father is no longer able to put food on the table?
The decisions made by the NFL and under pressure from the public actually hurt the so-called victims rather than helping them. Ironically, their families are disadvantaged from the stringent penalties. The result of an extended ban of either family man, rather than restoring any measure of safety or normality, only brings more shame and poverty to black families in the United States, and serves to deprive more black children of a comfortable childhood.
We must consider what then, if not a better life for the so-called victims, is accomplished if Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson are sent to prison or not given back their jobs? Perhaps, more publicity for organizations that collect money to hold banners and preach out against child abuse or violence against women? Does the black community benefit when these organizations raise more money, when more black families become disenfranchised?
Yet, too often, people capitalize on such incidents to build a platform for their own personal grievances.
If we are dissatisfied with the violent sport that is American football or the aggression that it requests on a daily basis from its participants, that issue and not the fate of individual players, should be the focus of the debate. The discussion should be about building a rehabilitation institute to help players cope with a cruel sport or perhaps even curbing the sport entirely of the brutality that its devoted audience pleasurably consumes.
If we care about domestic violence, we should ask different questions, not just about black players in a black league, but about how domestic violence affects everyone and take measures to resolve these issues outside of football.
But what is most likely the case is that people—those ensconced in corporate offices with scenic views, airborne on private jets, and secluded from the general populace—are angered that Roger Goodell and the NFL owners are making billions with each snap and not sharing enough of their earnings with the rest of the capitalists.
The brunt of their dissatisfaction is playing out in the mass media in the form of these recent cases of NFL bashing. Black men and black families are simply collateral damage.
Why would this make sense?
Because Adrian Peterson’s physical contact with his child occurred in May. The Ray and Janay Rice elevator fight happened even earlier, in February. So why would the release of the second extended elevator video and the accusations against Adrian Peterson happen in near succession in September? Maybe to coincide with the beginning of the NFL season?
The problem with airing dirty laundry is that all outsiders see is dirty laundry. They do not see how the material got to its present state. They cannot discern its intentions—why it is outside and what the owners might to do with it. It allows us to create fabrications about the origin of the laundry and draw unfounded conclusions about its future.
The public’s eavesdropping on private matters has spun out of control into an unwieldy witch-hunt: clumsy, cumbersome, and unmanageable—doing far more damage than mending wounds.
In spite of these events, hundreds of fans wore Ray Rice jerseys to the Baltimore Ravens game. One woman carried proudly sported Adrian Peterson’s #28 Minnesota Vikings jersey and carried a wooden switch.
These people are content with leaving family business where it should stay—in the family.
It would be best if we would all do the same.